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The Triumph of Hope over Experience

In a city which had to severely cut core services in order to deal with a 20% shortfall in its general fund earlier this year, and which faces further fiscal fiascoes for the foreseeable future, can someone explain to me why being the Chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee is being touted by Oakland mayoral candidate Jean Quan’s supporters as an argument in her favor, rather than an argument against her?

Quan’s supporters cited her knowledge of Oakland city government as one of her main qualifications for mayor. She has served as chair of the City Council Finance Committee, which has had to make difficult decisions in cutting close to $100 million from the 2009 city budget, with a projected $25 million of budgets cuts still to come in 2010.

“She’s the one who knows the city of Oakland inside and out,” said Claudia Falconer, president of the Montclair Village Association. “It’s a troubled time, and cities across the country are having fiscal problems. Jean knows the Finance Department of the City of Oakland better than anyone else.”

I’m not masochistic enough to pay very close attention to Oakland’s government, so maybe someone can convince me that Quan is part of the solution rather than part of the problem when it comes to Oakland’s financial problems, but at first blush, I find this argument less than compelling. The same article notes that she wants to model her campaign after Obama’s, with a lot of grassroots neighborhood organizing. Obama certainly ran an impressive campaign, but let’s not forget that he also benefited from a widespread “throw the bums out!” sentiment, and that similar feelings will motivate a lot of voters in 2010’s elections too. (Not that the idea of voting for Don Perata for mayor makes me any more excited—the only prospect that really excites me about Oakland’s mayoral election is the thought that maybe I won’t be able to vote in it because I won’t live here anymore. Now that’s change I can believe in!)